SCATTER, part one

As summer quickly fades into fall, people scatter, looking for those precious last summer pleasures. Here in America’s northwest corner, cars from faraway states like Mississippi and New Jersey roam the highways, taking that final spin before the responsibilities of school and work assume primacy again.

Birds scatter too: fledglings that must survive on their own are exploring further from their nest sites. Shorebirds are already migrating south. Our local online birding forum reports rarities like the charmingly named Wandering tattler, a shorebird that nests in Alaska and winters on the coast, far from Seattle. Seeds are scattering to disperse their genetic material, aided by wind, animals, birds, insects – and once in a while, my shoes.

Scattered movement seems to be common in late summer/early fall in the Northern hemisphere. In keeping with the season, I have a scattering of photos from the last few months.

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I’ve gotten out whenever I could. It never feels often enough, but that sort of dissatisfaction is called being human, isn’t it?  I long for more, for places farther and farther away.

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Gold Creek Pond, Snoqualmie Pass, Cascade Mountains (Washington)

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Naches Peak Loop Trail, Mt. Rainier National Park

 

There have been many short jaunts nearer home this summer. These drives and walks that trace local pathways help construct a bedrock of felt knowledge about my local landscape.

Growing up in the northeast, I grew into an intimate relationship with the land, its flora and fauna. This knowledge is formed by the accretion of layer upon layer of sensing, in the outdoors. Experiencing the weather, inhaling the scent of local plants, encountering local creatures – it all adds up. It is years of watching the sky, listening closely to the faintest birdsong, feeling the tingle of a bug crawling across my arm, and inhaling the sharp air over a frozen snow field. It is decades of thinking about the progression of wildflower bloom along roadsides, the odd differences in Song sparrow songs, the beauty of a rounded canopy of deciduous trees laid across rolling hills.

Now I’m beginning the same journey thousands of miles away.

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Here, the characters are different (well, mostly) and the setting is different, but the forays outside to check out a new place or return again to the same spot will accrue a felt sense of this place, just as my wanderings on the east coast embedded an intimate knowledge of that landscape.

Along the way the photos play their part, too.

 

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The key is getting out, looking, listening, tasting, inhaling and feeling the outdoors til it fills every pore.

 

 

Left to Their Own Devices

No gardener worked to create the strange song of the blues this leaf sings, alone on the wind.

No one designed this quiet intermingling of clinging lichens and springing moss, sharing secrets on a damp branch.

Ravaged to their core, grasses still bow and send soft arabesques into the cold.

And stalks of fireweed wind their wacky way to the sky, innocent of human intention.

I have no argument with gardeners or human intent though. I know –

with or without our intervening helping hands,

there’s beauty out there,

balancing

along with us

on the precipice

of the darkest day

of the year.

Photos taken recently at Juanita Bay Park, Kirkland, Washington.

It’s Delicate

When my friend Joe worked at a state forensic psychiatric ward, one of his favorite patients was a man who never talked much except to remark, “It’s very tricky!” with a slightly conspiratorial air. Jerry would sit down in the art room and silently paint dreamy watercolor landscapes. For him it seemed life was a tricky series of negotiations between what some treatment professionals called reality and what he was actually experiencing. It was all tricky. One might also say, it’s all very delicate.

The borders between health and illness can be very delicately drawn when you’re trying to negotiate emotional ups and downs that seem to be conspiring to drive you over the edge.

But there’s nothing delicate about arming yourself with three guns and striding into an elementary school to find little kids to kill. There’s nothing delicate about shooting your mother in the face and killing her. There’s nothing delicate about the long nights and days the Newtown survivors now face without their children, their brothers and sisters, parents, friends, teachers.

As a mother of one child, a boy, I feel acutely the horror of the loss of a child when these violent acts happen, and I imagine the horror of grief and surprise that the parents of murderers must feel. Because this latest mass shooting took place not far from the house where we last lived together, I am compelled to look at pictures of my son taken long ago. An innocent infant – so inconceivably delicate:

How many nights did I stay up worrying that he wouldn’t come home? How many days did I spend agonizing over some trouble he was in and wondering if he would even make it to adulthood? It was often a very delicate balancing act, but yes, he is alive, and compared to many, he and I are lucky.

I don’t know what we can do to decrease the frequency of mass shootings – enact gun control legislation? Surely. Educate people towards a more enlightened approach to mental health? Certainly. Pay better attention to what’s going on in the delicate reaches of the minds of those around us? Yes. And perhaps try to embody light, in this dark season, a little more. It’s a delicate balance, isn’t it?